Curfew in Stepanakert

Cloud over Stepanakert, May 2023 (Wikimedia Commons)

Once more, tanks,
leaning their black old bulks
against the hopeless face
of posterity
which, already, hasn’t spoken to us
for these many years…

Tanks painted in fading shades,
faces shaved in springtime, the unfolding street horizon is now shod
with the conscripts’ rising tobacco smoke 

I lay down next to the murmur
of the fountain’s mountain water,
three shadows wrapped in greatcoats
merge and lie down beside me,
their motorcars polished
hard as totalitarian lands,
and gun-barrels chilling as the eyes of fish.
As the day fades fast, this anguish
suggests a photoplay in black-and-white,
where the curfew herds people homeward
like so many dolls, hollow, ragged, leaving behind — as a microscopic sign of hope — the phosphorus of tyranny nailed to the sparks made by marching boots.

Today is the third day of curfew
and all must prim and be proper, hair combed,
all must clip short the nails of revolt,
everyone must dream in sameness of color
and similarity of trend,
all must respect the letter of the state,
which is far away, beyond misty steppes,
dispatching to us only its red light, as a sign of love
from its one-eyed, cyclopic tower —
plus the summons of November,
that shed their clothes in the icy clime
and become all fang and thorn
and swift bayonet, if met with scorn.

Traces of nails and dagger on walls adjacent to jails,
while the blood of the tortured is dried quickly
with the steamy breath of political prayer
and howls rising from Turkey.

Here, where bodies fell,
a strange bird appeared, pecking at its own pace
at something or other that we couldn’t quite place,
as the trees outside at the sight of me
scatter up the street in a big hurry, as in the fierce cold foliage flutters,
shivering, as if it’s my turn as an offering.

By Artem Harutiunian
Translated by Tatul Sonentz

Tatul Sonentz-Papazian

Tatul Sonentz-Papazian

Tatul Sonentz-Papazian is the former editor of the Armenian Review and director of the ARF and First Republic of Armenia Archives, based in Watertown, Mass. He has been a contributor to the Armenian Weekly for over 50 years. He currently directs the Publications Department of the Armenian Relief Society.
Tatul Sonentz-Papazian

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